Aaron Dean sentenced to over a decade in prison after manslaughter conviction in 2019 death of Atatiana Jefferson

Aaron Dean, the former Texas police officer who was convicted of manslaughter in the 2019 killing of Atatiana Jefferson, has been sentenced to 11 years, 10 months and 12 days in prison. 

The decision was announced on the afternoon of Tuesday, Dec. 20, less than a week after Dean was found guilty of manslaughter on Dec. 15.

Dean was initially indicted on a murder charge, but before the jury began deliberations, the judge in the case told them they could consider a manslaughter verdict, which in Texas carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Sentencing deliberations began on Monday. The jury deliberated for more than seven hours before breaking for the day.

The sentencing ends a long-delayed trial that began three years after Jefferson was killed in her Forth Worth-area home. Dean arrived at her house on Oct. 12, 2019, responding to a call about an open front door after a neighbor made a report to a nonemergency police line. Dean said that he believed a burglary was in process, though Jefferson’s nephew, who was in the home at the time of the shooting, said that the door had been left open to vent smoke from hamburgers he burned.

While looking for signs of an intruder, Dean went into the backyard of the house. Prosecutor Dale Smith contended that Dean did not announce himself at any time. Jefferson’s nephew, who was 8 years old at the time of the shooting, said his aunt grabbed a handgun she owned because she heard noises outside.

The main question of the trial was whether Dean saw Jefferson’s weapon before opening fire himself. Dean testified that he had seen the barrel of the gun pointed at him, so he opened fire; his defense attorney Bob Gill said in closing statements that Dean had a right to self defense.

Smith argued that Dean did not give Jefferson time to comply with commands, such as raising her hands; body camera footage released by the Fort Worth Police Department shows Dean shooting Jefferson about a second after he first addressed her. Prosecutors alleged that Dean never saw the gun, and described him as a “gung-ho, hard-charger” who “just shot.”

Dean had completed his police academy training the year before the 2019 shooting, and quit the force two days after the shooting, hours before he was arrested and charged with murder.